A bit of nostalgia in the archives today as this was the first themed 6′ x 4′ table I did for Epic back in 2001 as a demo table for Epic 40K. The overall table has long since been scrapped and replaced with a modular Realm of Battle set (which I’ll include in another archive post tomorrow), but while I had it we had some great games on it. It was even used during some ‘very’ early play-testing phases of Armageddon while we were working on the flyer and war engine rules. Happy days. Unfortunately the photos are somewhat small being a sign of the times and as the boards are no longer in existence can’t re-shoot them. Still, as a bit of Epic heritage goes they were fun to make, albeit a bit primitive compared with todays efforts. Enjoy.
Note: I wrote this around 15 years ago so this is quite probably one of the oldest articles I’ve recovered from the old site. I wouldn’t have bothered but there seemed to be interest in keeping it so hopefully some of it is still relevant today.
Another Games Day, another project.
Only this time I’ve decided to put my money (literally!) where my mouth is and do something about the absence of Epic 40,000 at Games Day.
So there I was, back in January, rummaging through some of the more secluded boxes in my work area when I stumbled across some of my ‘older’ epic guardsmen. After much nostalgic chuckling an idea popped into my head, wouldn’t it be nice I thought, now that Fanatic has helped breath life back into Epic, to see about getting it featured at Games Day once again. So I suggested it to Jervis. By the time my brain had caught on to what I was up to, it had already been settled. Now all I had to do was make it happen (oh dear!)
Simply putting together an Epic 40,000 game is relatively straight forward, think of a theme and build the terrain and models around it. However, once I decided to do this, I decided it shouldn’t just be any ordinary game, but something a bit more challenging, both gaming wise and more importantly modelling wise. At the end of the day, this is going to go to Games Day and ought to be something a bit special. With this in mind I literally sat down with a pencil and piece of paper and just scribbled some ideas out. The first idea and the one I originally ran with was to do a re-fight scenario based on the 3rd Armageddon war. Planning for this had got pretty far along when a small spanner was thrown into the works. Warwick was looking for somebody to supply an Epic participation game for the Warhammer World Open Day in May and asked if I could do it. Rather foolishly I agreed (well, a jolly up to Games Workshop HQ is never a bad thing). This obviously meant accelerating the production of the boards and armies somewhat, actually a fortnight to be precise. Knowing I couldn’t realistically paint up enough Orks in that time as well as make the boards I had a bit of a rethink. In the end I decided to make the game Imperium versus Tyranids, with a few twists along the way.
The first stage in making the gaming boards was to plan out exactly what I wanted them to look like. As ‘City Fight’ was going to be one of the themes running throughout this years event, I felt some kind of city section ought to feature (plus it gave me a feeble excuse to use some of Forge Worlds incredible resin buildings).
Having not long finished reading ‘Necropolis’, I was really took by the idea of a walled city under siege. With this in mind I sketched out a total of four board sections, with just under half occupied by the city. I started with four 2′ x 4′ pieces of 8mm MDF (Medium Density Fibre) board, which not only gives a very smooth and hard wearing surface to work on, but also don’t tend to warp when stored upright.
After marking out where I wanted the buildings and roads to go, I cut the hills and mountains out of pieces of dense polystyrene and fixed them to the boards using a ‘cool melt’ glue gun (you can get these from most hobby or craft stores, but take care with ‘hot melt’ glue as it will not only melt the polystyrene, but your fingers also!). To textures the rock faces I used an interior decorating plaster such as Polyfilla. This comes pre-mixed and is just applied straight onto the polystyrene. This is a great way to not only texture rock, as you can ‘stipple’ it with a brush, but also sets very hard and protects the otherwise flimsy polystyrene core. The roads were textured with car body filler which I simply smoothed on and sanded to the finish I wanted.
Notes on using Car Body Filler: Ok, I admit that this stuff is great for sculpting with as it goes off incredibly quickly (in about 10 minutes in fact!), however there are a few things to be wary of if you have never used it before. Firstly it can be very expensive, so use sparingly. It also gets very hot!. The more hardener you add to the base putty the hotter it gets (and the quicker it goes off). Finally don’t use this stuff in doors(and I really, really mean that!). It gives off a massive amount of noxious fumes and is irritating to the skin and lungs. The plus side however is it can be sanded, filed and drilled to an incredibly smooth finish. If you don’t fancy using it, decorators filler will do just fine.
The final base texture once everything else had set, was a layer of sand and gravel, which I sprinkled over a layer of watered down PVA glue.
Painting the boards
I firstly spray undercoated all of the boards black. You could do this by hand, but I was feeling lazy and generous enough to purchase a few cans to save me the time. I then dry brushed most of the areas bestial brown, bubonic brown and bleached bone in that order. The city areas, roads and ruins I dry brushed codex grey, fortress grey and finally ghostly grey.
Once all the colours were on, I then applied a further layer of various coloured flock, trees and moss. These were applied more sparingly and randomly using the following technique. Take a small spray bottle, like the ones used for spraying plants. pour in a little PVA glue and thin it down until it has the consistency of milk. Simply ‘spray’ patches you want the flock to go and sprinkle away.
The end effect is a lot more natural looking as areas of the brown base colours show through the flocks. The entire board can be sealed then using more sprayed on PVA, just to keep everything nicely in place. The two boards above are the middle sections, although they are still far from complete yet as a lot more detail still needs to be added, such as more rubble, low ruins, defence lines and bunkers. But all of that I will cover in a later update nearer the time.
Having measured out the spaces that I wanted the main buildings to occupy, I started assembling these separately on pieces of thin hardboard cut to fit the spaces. Although you could easily glue the building directly onto the boards, which would look a lot more natural, I wanted to ensure that they could be stored easily once complete.
The buildings roughly fall into two categories; undamaged and ruined. The undamaged buildings were easy, I simply purchased the amazingly detailed ones that Forge World had already created. The trick now was to make the ruined buildings appear like they were at least of a similar design and look. Over the past few years I have seen quite a few Epic games and if one thing stands out as being uniform across all of those games, it is the use and look of the ruins. I have noticed a tendency to assemble the buildings straight out of the box, generally as a straight forward hollow box shape. What I want to show here is that with a little imagination and a few extra bits, larger more intricate sets of ruins can be created.
To make the buildings I used a combination of the plastic ruin frames from the Epic 40,000 boxed game (apologies if you are having difficulty getting these, I know they are becoming rarer than rocking horse poo!), plastic card, air cure modelling clay (such as DAS), spare bits from Warhammer 40,000 building and tank kits, and copious amounts of heavy gravel and sand for texturing the bases.
Here’s where a bit of imagination comes into play. Instead of assembling each set of ruins into individual buildings, I started combining entire sections together to make larger layouts. This process is kind of guided by the size of the spaces you leave on the board between the roads. By deciding how big the buildings ‘foot print’ is before you start assembling it, you effectively force yourself into ‘filling’ that area, either with a building, number of combined smaller buildings or even areas of paving. The images I have included are examples of what I mean by this as no two buildings are identical. Once I had finished each building, I went back and added some further details, such as floors, paving slabs, craters and broken roof sections.
The roofing was achieved using some of the window arches from the warhammer 40,000 plastic ruins frame, which I clipped off and stuck onto the base as large pillars. I used pre-textured sheets of plastic tiling (the sort used for ‘N’ gauge model railways) for the roof sections, which are stuck onto the pillars using hot glue. The floors were constructed out of the card sections that were supplied with the buildings, although any oldstiff card will do. These were simply coated in PVA glue and sprinkled with sand and gravel. The pillars at the front of the larger building were made by stacking wheels from the Leman Russ kit one on top of the other, before finishing them with the gothic gun towers from the Imperator Titan.
All of the buildings were painted in exactly the same way as the textured boards, using a dry brush of codex grey, fortress grey and finally ghostly grey. I dry brushed the roof sections scab red and the textured bases with a little bestial brown and bleached bone.
Theme Objects: (Five weeks until Games Day)
Ok, now that most of the buildings are out of the way, I want to talk a bit about theme objects. Most Epic games are driven by a number of objectives, which are either marked counters placed by the players, or even special terrain markers, like bunkers and communication towers. Naturally I wanted to keep this kind of structure for the Games Day game, but at the same time integrate these objectives far more into the actual terrain and more importantly scenario we would be fighting over.
I refer to these objectives as ‘theme objects’, or in other words actual tangible sections of the gaming terrain that are ‘part of a theme’ to the specific game we will be playing. An example in a Warhammer 40,000 game would be the model of a crashed shuttle or escape pod, something your army can actually take and hold that fits with the game scenario.
With all of this in mind, I sat down and wrote out the scenario for the game in more detail, making notes of any ideas that would make a good terrain piece. As the game revolves around a Tyranid invasion, I came up with the idea of having a Tyranid drone ship as the source of the Tyranids attack on the city. I developed the idea a bit further and thought “what if the drone had been crippled in a naval battle above the planet, could it not have used its dying throes to enter the atmosphere before crashing to the ground a few miles short of the city”. As luck would have it I was running a game of Adeptus Titanicus II at the Black Library Open Day and Mark Bedford was there working on some concept Tyranid ships for Battlefleet Gothic. After a chat with Mark a design was agreed for the Tyranid craft, which tied the two games together rather nicely.
Putting my notes aside on the ship, I continued looking for other pieces of terrain I could use as specific objectives. In the end I cam up with a short list which included A power station, bridge, railhead, Astropath beacon, command bunker and of course the tyranid ship itself. I will cover the construction behind each of these in more detail in a later update, but for the moment I was happy with the final scenario design.
The best laid plans of mice and men, how often I have heard that, but for this project its was so true. As I mentioned in earlier articles at the beginning of this project, the plan was for a gaming table in three sections, each 2′ by 4′ making a total table size of 4′ x 6′. After taking two of the boards up to the Black Library Day at Warhammer World in Nottingham, I decided to expand the city by another table section to feature the city further back from the battlefront and hence a lot more intact. Naturally this meant I would need to include a lot more buildings if it was to look metropolitan, so it was back off to Nottingham to have a good root through Forge World once more (Many thanks must go to Forge World for accommodating my rather erratic and large ‘I need these’ lists at very short notice!). With a box full of buildings including the tank factory and huge cathedral, it was simply a case of drawing up plans for the board.
As this was to continue directly on from a board that was already built, there were a number of restrictions along at least one edge as to where roads were and the height of the board at that point. I started by buying another 2′ by 4′ piece of 12mm MDF to match the other sections. To this I added another 6mm piece of MDF which was used to make the raised section where I could add a canal and some bridges.
Armed with pretty much everything I needed, I sketched out where I wanted the roads to run and placed the buildings onto the board to see how they looked. After moving them around several times I eventually settled on a layout I liked and marked the board accordingly. The 6mm MDF was marked and cut using a jigsaw then sandwiched onto the main board using a decorators adhesive such as “no more nails”. I then used strips of plastic card to mark out where the buildings would go and used modeling clay to make the road surface. Once all of this had set the rail tracks were pinned in place to link up with those on the second board and I constructed bridges out of plastic card to span the canal at various points.
The board was textured using a sand and gravel mix which was applied over a coating of watered down pva glue. The entire board was undercoated with black primer then dry brushed grey and brown. The final task was to add the canal water which was in the form of meltable clear resin pieces, otherwise known as E-Z Water. This does make fantastic looking water but extreme care must be taken if you decide to use it as E-Z Water has a melting point of about 180 degrees centigrade and will stick to you hand like napalm when molten (you have been warned!).
To paint the resin buildings I first washed them thoroughly using warm soapy water before rinsing them in clean water and leaving to dry overnight. They were all spray undercoated with black primer and dry brushed codex, fortress and ghostly grey. For the rooftops I painted a 50/50 mix of scab red and blood red and the tank factory roof was painted in dark metals from tin bitz to boltgun metal.
Overall all of the terrain was a great deal of fun to make and I really enjoyed seeing the city take shape. Am I now finished then? not by a long shot. Once Games Day is out of the way I will review the boards and see if there is anything else I can do to add further detail. High on my list are finishing the roads properly and adding some more trees and water.
Games Day 2001
After nearly five weeks of work, the boards are finally complete and the armies (more or less) ready for the big day. We set off at an ungodly hour after packing everything into the van and head off up the motorway towards Birmingham and the National Indoor Arena where everything is wrestled through the stage entrance into the main arena. Previously club games and demo games have been run in the lower hall, however this year was the first year that it was all to be run in the main arena alongside the mega-games and participation tables.
After setting up it was simply a matter of waiting for the main doors to open and the crowds flood in, which they duly did just after 9.30am. The day went pretty well, other than a sever shortage of any form of refreshment for my throat, which was well and truly hoarse by the end of the event. The game ran smoothly for most of the day, but by the end, after wave after wave of Tyranid swarms were repelled by an unforgiving Imperial artillery and hit and runs by the Black Templar strike teams the Hivemind finally conceded defeat. A lot of interest in the game focused around both the newest and the oldest parts of the display, namely the Warhound and the Capitol Imperialis. The former had just been released by Forge World and drew a lot of attention as Games Day was effectively the launch of the new Titan and I hadn’t realised that it was not actually readily available at the time. The Capitol Imperialis was at the other extreme and was a model that has not been seen in general circulation for a long time and hence drew a lot of interest from veteran epic gamers in particular.
One of the reasons that Games Day is so successful is the fact that pretty more everybody there is a dedicated hobbyist to one degree or another. In certain cases it is certainly to a greater degree, which is why it didn’t really come as too much of a surprise to meet Jimbo and Paul face to face. Jimbo runs Felix’s Gaming Pages and is an avid Epic gamer to boot, in fact a lot of the pictures here were taken by Jimbo on the day (I didn’t really have the time sadly). Paul is something of an Epic stalwart who has been playing Epic almost as long as me which is saying something considering I started when Adeptus Titanicus was very first being tested for release back in the 80’s. Paul has been one of Epic most vocal proponents for many a year pressing on in the face of adversity when lesser beings had long since given up, so it was certainly a pleasure for me to get the chance to have a chat face to face.
By the end of the day we were pretty exhausted and glad to get the chance to finally grab something to drink and eat before everything was packed away and hustled back into the van for the two hour trip home.
So what does the future hold for the gaming boards and armies now that Games Day is over, and more importantly what is planned for next years event?
Well, the answer to the first part is you will have to wait and see. I do have plans to re-work the boards slightly as there are some areas that I never really finished to a satisfactory level or that I would like to change now that there are no time pressures. But those are for a future update and not today. The answer to the second part is nothing, after this years tiring exercise getting everything ready with little or no time, I’m going to take a break. Next year I’ll be at Games Day 2002 for a bit of rest and relaxation (honest!).
Several months later ….
Since Games Day I’ve dragged a number of the boards out for the odd game or two, but more importantly so I could have another critical look at them and see where they could be improved further. Just because a projects target has been reached, in this instance getting the boards ready for Games Day, doesn’t mean that is the end of it as there is always more that can be added or improved. I look at terrain as something that constantly evolves and changes, using any opportunity to add further detail or textures if I get the chance. With the Epic boards, the foundation had already been laid for a decent city section, all it needed was a further bit of tweaking.
Once I had decided that I wanted to continue developing my Epic boards, I dragged them all out of storage again and had a long look to see which area I was least happy with. For me that was the roads, time and budget constraints had compromised me into an interim solution of using car body filler to sculpt the road textures and add craters. The most obvious solution was to replace them with the high detail road sections available at Forge World, but that would be costly. In order to evaluate how expensive it would be I cut some templates out of paper to represent the different pieces of road available and placed them over the top of the road sections that were already there. This gave me a list and quantity of the pieces I would require in order to replace my roads with Forge Worlds. Armed with my list it was back off to Lenton to pester Forge World for a few miles worth of resin asphalt.
Before I could stick anything down, I needed to remove the old roads first. This involved considerable elbow grease with a small chisel and a hammer. Although it was possible to just stick the resin pieces straight on top of the filler, it was really better to bond them to an even flat surface, hence all the chiselling.
When I was satisfied that the surface was suitable I picked a fixed point such as a junction or cross roads and started placing the road pieces to make sure they all fitted correctly (note: at this point no glue was used, I just wanted to test everything went together before making it permanent). Inevitably there were gaps where the pieces did not quite meet perfectly which were fixed using modelling putty and off cuts from spare road pieces I ordered as contingency. Once I was satisfied that everything was going to fit, I stuck the pieces down using a builders adhesive and left them overnight to set.
To fill the gaps between the sides of the road and the building or waste ground I used modeling clay such as DAS Pronto. This was simply applied to the gaps then smoothed off using a flat sculpting tool and a little water. Further texture was added to this once it had set using sand and gravel.
When I originally designed the boards for Games Day, they were to be six feet in length; the last two foot section being the city and docks. This was later expanded by another city section to eight feet in length, which kind of left the docks stranded in the middle of the board. I hastily filled them in to disguise the fact for Games Day, but always felt that the little ‘island’ raised up in the middle of the city looked distinctly odd. Once again it was out with the hammer and chisel (the terrain makers equivalent of one of those big wrecker balls and a JCB) and pretty soon the platform had been reduced back down to bare wasteland.
Obviously this left a big gap more or less slap bang in the middle of the city between the intact buildings and the bombed out buildings which would require filling. I chose to fill the space with more buildings, only this time a mixture of semi intact and ruined to help break up the hard line between where the old ruined city ended and the extended section started.
Now that all the roads have been replaced, it was time to turn my attention back to the buildings. Unsurprisingly, replacing the general strips of plaster with proper fixed sized resin road sections has meant that one or two of my larger buildings no longer fit in the spaces they originally occupied. After shuffling them around a bit to find spaces they now fitted into, I ended up with some gaps that now needed some rapid re-development and set about designing some new buildings.
Previously I demonstrated how the plastic ruins that came with the boxed game could be combined with a little imagination to make some larger or more intricate buildings than the standard ‘box with four corners’. I also showed how Forge Worlds high detail resin terrain could be used to represent the intact sections of the city. What I needed now was something in between, ‘partial ruins’ or ‘damaged buildings’ to put it another way.
When Will Hayes created the Epic scale buildings for Forge World, he cleverly used the plastic ruins as a start point and effectively ‘re-engineered’ them back into a complete building. This meant that the Forge World buildings and the plastic ruins were of course fully interchangeable and I could replace parts of the one with parts from the other. I started with one of the Forge World Administratum buildings and taking a razor saw to it sawed it at an angle right the way around to split it into two large corner sections. Using a grinding tool (in this instance a Dremel), I ground out part of the centre of the buildings so that the roof had a slight overhang and shaped the interior roughly. Note: Grinding and sanding resin creates more dust than you can believe, so it is strongly advised to wear some kind of dust mask as inhaling resin dust will do nothing for your health.
Once I had finished wrecking one of the building halves, I located the matching plastic ruin pieces and carefully removed the section that would continue the line of the building. The best way to do this is to place the plastic ruin piece over the side of the building you are working on and see where they match up, removing the areas that do so that both building and ruin can be stuck together to make a single uninterrupted wall. Once all of the pieces were cut, I stuck them down onto a piece of plastic card the same size as the space I wanted to fill and added the resin building half. Green stuff was used to fill and gaps and I added pieces of collapsed flooring made from sheets of plastic card and bent paper clips. Once all of this was set, I filled the interior floor of the building with modelling clay (DAS fine white air drying) before adding a layer of rubble from pieces of plastic card and gravel.
Although this initially seems a hugely expensive way of making terrain, don’t forget that each resin building now makes two sets of ruins. In total I made four ‘semi-ruined’ buildings which were all added to the area formerly occupied by the docks. The gaps between all of the buildings were filled with a paved area to which I added a few extra details such as municipal vehicles and transports as well as a lot more rubble and barricades.
Muck and rubble
There is a funny phenomenon that I often see when it comes to Warhammer 40,000 and Epic 40,000 battlefields, that being the pre-emptive strike of the street sweepers. I lose count the number of times I have seen a really well thought out and built set of city ruins, only to have it spoiled by the fact that there is not one bit of rubble and detritus anywhere. Its almost as if the enemy just bombed seven bells out of the city, only to pause whilst a clean up crew scampered around and swept up all the debris; can’t have a fight in dirty streets now can we? Unsurprisingly this really sets my teeth on edge. Now I’m not advocating that every piece of terrain should have a mountain of debris, impassable by all bar those carrying ropes and climbing tackle, but at the very least a few discreet piles of bricks and shattered mortar where a wall or two has collapsed. Twisted girders and pieces of roofing are also a nice touch.
For the majority of the sections in the outer city I added a mix of course gravel and sand for rubble, with small sections of plastic I-beam sticking out. In the case of larger piles or areas where the rubble is heaped up I pre-shaped the area with modelling clay before covering it with gravel.
The whole operation took less than two days and I am certainly quite pleased with the result, the roads integrating nicely with the space and textures that were already there. The partially ruined buildings were very messy at first to make, but once all of the resin was finished they were not too difficult to construct (or demolish depending upon your point of view). There is still quite a bit more work to do yet in terms of detailing and painting, especially to the curtain wall which requires quite a bit of attention now that the rest of the city is complete. But like I said at the very start, no project is ever really finished, just paused.